Although sleep is vital for our health, its biological purpose is not fully understood. Oddly, the seemingly inactive state of sleep is truly a dynamic and critical procedure that helps us store memories, build immunity, repair tissue, regulate metabolic process and blood pressure, control appetite and blood glucose, and process learning, plus a multitude of other physiological processes – which are regulated by the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
In accordance with the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in the National Institute of Health (NIH), new findings suggest “sleep plays a housekeeping role that removes toxins within your brain that develop while you are awake.”
Poor sleep is the number one reported medical complaint within the Unites States as well as a serious public health concern. The typical adult needs between seven and eight hours of sleep each day. Yet, 10-30 million Americans regularly don’t get enough sleep.
Individuals with chronic illnesses are at higher risk for insomnia, which exacerbates their discomfort. Comorbid medical disorders – including issues that cause hypoxemia (abnormally low blood oxygen levels) and dyspnea (difficult or labored breathing), gastroesophageal reflux disease, pain, and neurodegenerative diseases – use a 75-95 percent increased chance of insomnia.
In 2016, in accordance with the industry research firm MarketsandMarkets, Americans spent $3.38 billion on prescription sedatives and hypnotics, over-the-counter (OTC) sleep drugs, and herbal sleep aids. It’s projected that the marketplace for such products will experience about a 4.5 percent growth rate between now and 2021.
The search for good night’s sleep may be hazardous to one’s health. Daniel F. Kripke, MD, sleep expert and co-founding father of Research at Scripps Clinic Vitebri Family Sleep Center, discusses the hazards of sleep helps with his paper “Hypnotic drug risks of mortality, infection, depression, and cancer: but insufficient benefit.”
Dr. Kripke reviewed 40 studies conducted on prescription sleeping pills, including hypnotic drugs like zolpidem (Ambien, Edlmar, Intermezzo and Zolpimist), temazepam (Restoril), eszopiclone (Lunesta), zaleplon (Sonata), triazolam (Halcion), flurazepam (Dalmane and Dalmadorm), quazepam, and other barbiturates employed for sleep. Of these 40 studies, thirty-nine learned that consumption of hypnotics is “associated with excess mortality” towards the tune of any 4.6 times higher risk of death for hypnotic users.
Grim statistics: 10,000 deaths each year are directly brought on by and associated with hypnotic drugs, according to medical examiner data. However, large epidemiological studies suggest the amount of fatalities might actually be nearer to 300,000-500,000 annually. The difference could be related to underreported use of hypnotics during death and the fact that prescription hypnotics are rarely listed as the cause of death.
Dr. Kripke concludes that even limited usage of sleeping pills causes “next day functional impairment,” increases probability of “on-the-road driver-at-fault crashes,” increases falls and accidental injuries especially among seniors, is assigned to “2.1 times” as numerous new depression incidents when compared with randomized placebo recipients, and increases the potential risk of suicide. Furthermore, the use of opioids along with hypnotics – two known dose-dependent respiratory suppressants – can be extremely dangerous, particularly when combined with alcohol and other drugs.1
Due to the issues with conventional soporifics, medical scientists happen to be exploring other ways to boost sleep by targeting the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Because the primary homeostatic regulator of human physiology, the ECS plays an important role within the sleep-wake cycle and other circadian processes.
Italian scientist Vicenzo DiMarzo summarized the broad regulatory function of the endocannabinoid system inside the phrase “Eat, sleep, relax, protect and forget.”
There are 2 kinds of sleep: non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM), which includes three stages, and rapid eye-movement (REM) sleep, which can be its own stage of sleep. An entire sleep cycle occurs 5 to 6 times per night. The initial full cycle in the night is 70-100 minutes with remaining cycles lasting 90-120 minutes each. The stages of sleep defined by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke are listed below:
Stage 1 NREM sleep is definitely the changeover from wakefulness to get to sleep. In this short period (lasting several minutes) of relatively light sleep, your heartbeat, breathing, and eye movements slow, and your muscles relax with occasional twitches. The human brain waves start to slow using their daytime wakefulness patterns.
Stage 2 NREM sleep is a period of light sleep before you decide to enter deeper sleep. Your heartbeat and breathing slow, and muscles relax further. Your system temperature drops and eye movements stop. Brain wave activity slows but is marked by brief bursts of electrical activity. You may spend even more of your repeated sleep cycles in stage 2 sleep compared to other sleep stages.
Stage 3 NREM sleep is definitely the period of deep sleep (slow-wave sleep) that you should feel refreshed each morning. It occurs in longer periods through the first half of the evening. Your heartbeat and breathing slow for their lowest levels while asleep. Your muscle mass are relaxed, your mind waves become even slower, it is sometimes complicated to waken in this cycle. This is when the body is stimulating growth and development, repairing muscle tissues, boosting the immunity mechanism, and building energy for the next day.
Stage 4 REM sleep initially occurs about 90 minutes after sleeping. The eyes move rapidly back and forth behind closed eyelids. Mixed frequency brain wave activity becomes nearer to that noticed in wakefulness. Your breathing becomes faster and irregular, and your heartbeat and blood pressure levels increase to near waking levels. Much of your dreaming occurs during REM sleep (although dreams can also appear in non-REM sleep). Your arm and leg muscles become temporarily paralyzed, which prevents from acting your dreams. This stage is when you process everything you learned the morning before and consolidate memories. When you age, you sleep less of your time in REM sleep.
The way we fall asleep, stay asleep, get up, and remain awake is an element of your internal biological process regulated by our circadian rhythms and our endocannabinoid system. Circadian rhythms govern a wide variety of actions in the body, including hormone production, heartbeat, metabolism, so when to visit sleep and get up.
It’s as though we have an internal biochemical timer or clock that keeps track of our requirement for sleep, guides your body to sleep then influences the concentration of sleep. This biological mechanism is impacted by external forces including travel, medication, food, drink, environment, stress and much more. Key question: Does the endocannabinoid system regulate our experience with circadian rhythms or the other way around?
Evidence of a powerful relationship between the two is observed within the sleep-wake cycle fluctuations of anandamide and two-AG (the brain’s own marijuana-like molecules), combined with the metabolic enzymes that produce and break down these endogenous cannabinoid compounds.
Anandamide is present within the brain at higher levels at night plus it works jointly with the endogenous neurotransmitters oleamide and adenosine to produce sleep. Conversely, 2AG is higher during the day, suggesting that it is involved with promoting wakefulness.
The highly complex sleep-wake cycle is driven by a number of neurochemicals and molecular pathways.2 Both anandamide and 2AG activate CB1 cannabinoid receptors which can be concentrated within the nervous system, including parts of the brain connected with regulating sleep.
CB1 receptors modulate neurotransmitter release in a manner that dials back excessive neuronal activity, thereby reducing anxiety, pain, and inflammation. CB1 receptor expression is thus a key aspect in modulating sleep homeostasis.
This is not the truth, however, with regards to the CB2, the cannabinoid receptor located primarily in immune cells, the peripheral neurological system, and metabolic tissue. Whereas CB1 receptor expression reflects cyclical circadian rhythms, no such fluctuations have already been described for that CB2 receptor.
The challenge of studying and treating sleep disturbances is complicated by the fact that sleep disorders are symptomatic of many chronic illnesses. Oftentimes, poor sleep results in chronic illness, and chronic illness always involves a fundamental imbalance or dysregulation in the endocannabinoid system. Although we still have much to discover the relationship in between the ECS and circadian rhythms, it’s clear that adequate quality sleep is really a critical part of restoring and looking after one’s health.
Cannabinoids happen to be used for centuries to promote sleepiness and to assist stay asleep. Inside the acclaimed medical reference Materia Medica, published in the 18th century, cannabis was listed as being a ‘narcotica’ and ‘anodyna’ (pain reliever). Its reintroduction to Western medicine by Sir William B. O’Shaughnessy in 1843 triggered studies that underscored the remedial properties of “Indian hemp” for sleep disorders.
“Of all anaesthetics ever proposed, Indian hemp will be the one which produced a narcotism most closely resembling natural sleep without causing any extraordinary excitement in the vessels, or any particular suspension of secretions, or without fear of an unsafe reaction, and consecutive paralysis,” German researcher Bernard Fronmueller observed in 1860. Nine years later Fronmueller reported that in 1000 patients with sleep disturbance, Indian hemp produced cures in 53 percent, partial cure in 21.5 percent, and little if any effects in 25.5 percent.
Sleep-related problems still drive a large percentage of men and women to seek relief with cannabis. Poor sleep and sleep deficiency cause physiological changes within the body after only one night, resulting in slower reaction times, deceased cognitive performance, less energy, aggravated pain and vtkvnz inflammation, and in some cases overeating or cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate “comfort” foods. A 2014 study by Babson et al notes that approximately 50 percent of long term cannabis consumers (over ten years) report using cannabis as being a sleep aid. Among medical marijuana patients, 48 percent report using cannabis to assist with insomnia.